Thousands of ecstatic Raptors fans are packing the streets of Toronto in a mega-celebration as the team’s official NBA championship parade winds its way through the downtown area.
Throngs are erupting in cheering and chanting, waiting to catch a glimpse of the now-historic NBA team — and their new hardware, the Larry O’Brien Trophy.
“I’m living a dream right now,” Serge Ibaka, Raptors centre and power forward, said to CBC News while he’s atop one of the buses carrying players and coaches.
The team and their families, along with the trophy, are riding a total of five open-air double-decker buses during the parade, which began at 10 a.m. ET at the Princes’ Gates at Exhibition Place and will end with a rally at Nathan Phillips Square.
“We’re feeling like we’re on top of the world right now,” said the Raptors’ only Canadian player, forward Chris Boucher, surrounded by family members.
“We feel on top of the world!” – Chris Boucher on what it feels like as the lone Canadian on the <a href=”https://twitter.com/Raptors?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw”>@Raptors</a><br><br>Watch: <a href=”https://t.co/qoVGMl8ugw”>https://t.co/qoVGMl8ugw</a> <a href=”https://t.co/pHYLR6ADtn”>pic.twitter.com/pHYLR6ADtn</a>
Looking for the details on the parade timing and route? We’ve got you covered.
Fans began filling the downtown area on the weekend, following Thursday’s win over the Golden State Warriors. By 6 a.m. Monday, excited crowds were lining the parade route and spilling into Nathan Phillips Square, where Raps fans started camping out Sunday morning.
MLSE is expecting two million people to attend.
You can watch CBC News Special: Raptors Championship Parade, hosted by The National‘s Adrienne Arsenault and CBC Toronto’s Dwight Drummond, on Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, on CBC Gem or via livestream on CBCNews.ca, on CBC Television in Ontario and CBC News Network across Canada. The special will air from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. ET.
- You can listen to CBC Radio One in Ontario for live coverage hosted by Metro Morning‘s Matt Galloway starting at 12 p.m. ET.
At a media event Sunday afternoon, head coach Nick Nurse and some top Raptors players spoke at the Raptors’ training facility — and they all said they’re excited to celebrate with the city.
Fans pretty jacked here close to Jurassic Park! “Let’s Go Raptors” <a href=”https://twitter.com/hashtag/cbcTO?src=hash&ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw”>#cbcTO</a> <a href=”https://twitter.com/hashtag/RaptorsNation?src=hash&ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw”>#RaptorsNation</a> <a href=”https://twitter.com/hashtag/RaptorsParade?src=hash&ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw”>#RaptorsParade</a> <a href=”https://t.co/mqqUkdJ3pS”>pic.twitter.com/mqqUkdJ3pS</a>
Fans are more than ready to enjoy the moment along with them.
Morteza Hashimi said he “grew up watching basketball” and fell in love with the Raptors at a young age. He spent the night on the concrete of the square because he wanted to have an unobstructed view.
“It’s really important because the amount of years we’ve spent watching this team, the amount of heartbreaks, the devastation that we’ve had in playoffs and the really bad years that we’ve gone through,” Hashimi reflected.
I’ll probably tear up a little bit to be honest with you.– Morteza Hasimi, lifelong raptors fan
“To finally have this great achievement, it’s really important to have front row seats to be able see and witness everything.”
He was preparing for an emotional day.
“I’ll probably tear up a little bit to be honest with you,” he laughed.
Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment (MLSE), the corporation that owns the Raptors, is hosting the official championship parade and rally.
Dave and Darren Pierre came from Ottawa, backpacks stuffed with blankets and supplies, to “witness Canadian history.”
“I mean, this could be once in a lifetime. Having a championship in Toronto, especially in Canada, I just can’t miss this,” said Dave.
The pair figured they’d have to arrive early, given the crowds that filled Jurassic Park, the fanzone outside Scotiabank Arena, through the playoffs.
“I just want the best seat in the house. I want to be able to see it with my own two eyes,” said Darren.
“It’s something I’ve been waiting for since I was a kid. All that emotion, all that joy. Watching them over the years — it’s unbelievable.”
‘We the North Day’ in Toronto
Ahead of the festivities, Toronto Mayor John Tory declared Monday as “We the North Day.”
“This victory is also for the passionate Toronto Raptors fans, who are the best in the league and filled Jurassic Parks in Toronto and across the country,” Tory said in his official proclamation.
“This championship is the culmination of years of patience, support, devotion and belief. Toronto has proven that it is a basketball city and that the game thrives in The North.”
NICK NURSE ARRIVES <br><br>Raptors head coach rolls up to Princes’ Gate and is bombarded by fans at a red light. What a scene. <a href=”https://twitter.com/CBCAlerts?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw”>@CBCAlerts</a> <a href=”https://twitter.com/CBCNews?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw”>@CBCNews</a> <a href=”https://twitter.com/CBCToronto?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw”>@CBCToronto</a> <a href=”https://twitter.com/cbcsports?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw”>@cbcsports</a> <a href=”https://t.co/YxXmHBf4Fs”>pic.twitter.com/YxXmHBf4Fs</a>
The Canadian Forces Snowbirds are also getting in on the fun, with a planned flyover of the rally at around 12:30 p.m.
The parade route and schedule:
- The parade left Princes’ Gates at 10 a.m. to head east on Lake Shore Boulevard.
- It turns north on York Street and continues north on University Avenue.
- It will turn east on Queen Street to enter Nathan Phillips Square at 12:30 p.m.
The post-parade rally is scheduled to wrap up around 1:30 p.m.
There is a viewing party at Coronation Park at 711 Lake Shore Blvd. W. on the waterfront.
There will be lots of traffic and transit disruptions throughout the parade, as police plan to enforce rolling closures along the route. Everything you need to know about road closures and transit diversions can be found here.
Raptors players, coaches and staff started returning to the city on various flights on Saturday to throngs of cheering fans gathered at Toronto Pearson International Airport.
Since their Game 6 win over the Warriors last week, many players have been celebrating in Las Vegas alongside rapper Drake.
Nonetheless, Raptors president Masai Ujiri said in a statement that the team will be ready to keep the party going.
“This means so much to our city and to many in Canada, and we are looking forward to showing everyone the Larry O’Brien Trophy on Monday,” he said.
“Bringing the NBA championship to Toronto is the realization of a goal for our team and for our players, and we are thrilled to be able to celebrate together with our fans.”